Looking at her identification card, Doina Eitler starts talking about the long hair she wore in plaits when she arrived in Australia in 1949 as a 10-year-old.
“My mother wouldn’t allow me to cut it because she thought I would go astray,” she laughs.
Arriving from Austria, Donia and her family were some of the thousands of migrants who lived at Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre after World War II.
These days the camp, 12 kilometres east of Wodonga in Victoria’s north-east, is the , telling the stories of more than 300,000 migrants who lived there while they were processed and assigned jobs.
Now 83, Ms Eitler is happy her family’s records will be digitised with an $800,000 regional tourism grant from the Victorian government.
She says this will help others piece together their family’s history.
“If it is online, it is there forever,” Ms Eitler said.
“It would be marvellous if they do that.”
Virtual documents, real memories
Dr Bruce Pennay is a historian and Associate Professor from Charles Sturt University working on the digitisation project that will make thousands of identification cards accessible online.
“They are the size of a photograph and they are stored in shoeboxes,” he said.
“There are about 800 cards in a box, and there are about 455 shoe boxes.
“What the digitisation of the cards shows is that this [Bonegilla Migrant Experience] is not just a national heritage place, it’s a public memory place.
“Digitising the cards gives people access to these stories and these memory prompts.”
The identification cards were kept by the government as a record of non-British migrants who came to Australia during the mass migration program after World War II.
Her family’s identification cards alone are enough to prompt many memories for Donia of her time at Bonegilla. For example, her mother’s missing occupation.
“She was a doctor, but she couldn’t work in Australia,” she said.
“Mainly because she couldn’t speak English and no one would have been able to understand her.”
The Victorian government this week announced the $800,000 grant from the Regional Tourism investment fund.
Regional Development Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said the funding would also help grow visitor numbers to the area.
“I know with one in 20 people having a connection to Bonegilla, this is only going to grow as an attraction and an experience,” she said.
“The $800,000 will help digitise more than 300,000 individual records and will also provide funding for an interpretation of those records.”
Source: Thanks msn.com